" . . . is over." Used to be my theme song. This is the first Valentine’s Day in more than 10 years that I’ve had a Valentine, and still, I have to “Be Mine” first—and always.
“The heart center means, warmth, compassion, passion, kindness, hatred--everything which is wonderful in the world and everything which is rotten on the planet--they all come from the heart center. If you set your heart on something, your head will give in, that’s why it is the most powerful center and extremely dangerous. On the other hand, this is the only center worth living with. . . .
There are millions of expressions which relate to the heart. But still we mess up our life, mostly because of the heart, because this center controls passion. Anytime passion is not controlled for human intuition, it will bring destruction; it’s a law that I can’t change.”
–© The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, February 12, 1991
Since meeting my fiancé, I’ve been writing a lot about love. I used to write a lot about love lost; now I write about what it takes to keep it. And the words of Yogi Bhajan are my ever present guide, in ways both big and small.
I came across this quote recently and realized that unless I come into a better relationship to this very powerful center, I didn’t stand a chance of containing and maintaining my future marriage. My life up to now has been lived under the painful blows of this hammer—intuition versus passion. I’ve always allowed my passions to rule; and I’ve paid a heavy toll. At this point in my life, I have witnessed so many relationships blow up in my face that I of course come to this one with a fair amount of trepidation, along with a few triggers and no little baggage. And as I observe myself, once again falling in love, and once again experiencing all the insecurity and doubt, along with the anger and frustration, I wonder, Do I have what it takes? And in that moment I remember these words, “this is the only center worth living with.”
And what does it mean to live with my own heart center—and within my own heart center? Does it mean being open-hearted? Yes—but only to myself. Does it mean experiencing passion? Yes—but only for myself. Does it mean feeling angry? Yes—but only with myself. Does it mean diving into the depths of compassion? Yes—but for me, for the scared little girl inside me who’s afraid of being lost but doesn’t quite know how to allow herself to be found either. The bottom line is that it’s an inside job. If I can accept and love and forgive all these things within me, then I can accept and love and forgive all these things in others, including my beloved. The beat of the heart is an ever-continuous call to the soul, Be mine, Be mine, Be mine. It is the rhythm of a life lived from the very center of our being.
So now, every time I hear the question, Do I have what it takes?, I know I’m simply doubting my own capacity to be with myself—to “Be Mine”. The mirror that is love and relationship is fathomless. And diving into those deep waters is scary; I don’t care how brave you believe yourself to be, or how much practice you’ve had in the past. When you dive into love, that dive is endless. There is no bottom; “there is no beginning and no end.” And so I realize that any insecurity I experience today or tomorrow is about my own fear of death, of Infinity; and my attachment to ego, who I believe I am, versus who the Guru, the Infinite within, is calling me to be. It gives these words we so often hear on Valentine’s Day, “Be Mine,” a whole new meaning.
Hear the rhythm of your own heart. Be with the rhythm of the self. Sing the song of the soul—and maybe, just maybe, someone will hear your song and want to sing along. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Speaking of hearing your song. . . check out the beginnings of my new album, Love & Other Miracles, at my new website: www.truebeingbeingtrue.com
This post originally appeared on Spirit Voyage's Blog, February 2012.
Love--old and new
When I returned from visiting my family in Texas for two weeks, talk of weddings (my niece’s) and love (my own) animated the trip and everyone seemed so pleased that “everything was working out.” As a single woman in my 40s, my family had long given up on the idea of my ever finding someone. As a single woman in her 20s, my niece had just made it under the “old-maid” wire, by becoming engaged at age 25. It’s a harsh reality in the south, but these are the rules.
Looking from the outside in, marriage has always seemed a bit scary to me—part security, part love, with a pretty big dose of misery as far as I could tell—not the quixotic mix of romance and passion one imagines as a child. Still I have grown; I’m a mature woman who now understands what love really is—or I like to think so. Love is not about getting what I want; but instead, giving what I have. Love is a terrifying generosity; one from which you never recover. New love is fresh and bright and shiny—like a new penny. But it doesn’t buy you much. Old love is worn, broken in, smooth—like a well-used glove. It can take anything.
Love is duty and duty is beauty. These are the words my family lives by—not even knowing who may have said them. It is an ethic driven deep into their bones by the West Texas winds. It’s a way of life known to very few these days—54 years and counting. My mom has served as the 24-hour caregiver to my father for more years than I can count. It’s a life of service and devotion I cannot imagine; yet as I contemplate the idea of merging my life with another’s, I ask myself: Do I have what it takes? Could I live for my duty and experience its beauty? Is this particular brand of love a lost art? Am I fundamentally too selfish?
I don’t suppose I’ll know unless I try. And what does trying look like? Each day, rising up to meet the dawn, setting aside what you believe you want and doing what you can to serve what lies in front of you. It rarely looks like what we imagined. But if we allow it to, it can open us up to a world of unimagined possibilities. The grinding monotony of changing catheters and washing sheets turns on a dime when an old man, forever changed by age and disease, cracks a joke at the dinner table, or turns and remembers his love of old and says, I am so grateful, bringing tears to my mom’s eyes. Or the quiet regularity of a singular life interrupted by passion, a love unsought yet delivered by the Guru’s Grace.
So here is my wish for you: May love show you a passion unquenchable, may love give you a grace unearned, may love teach you a dedication unswerving, and may love deliver you to a devotion unerring. May love break you open—wide as the Texas sky—and may you never be put back together again. For it is only by becoming nothing that we become everything; and it is only by loving that we can truly know love—both old and new.
This article originally appeared in 3HOs Blog, January 2012.
The 3HO lifestyle arrived here in the United States in the early 70s, at the very beginning of the Health Food movement. One could argue that the yoga lifestyle 3HO engenders was the seed that began the health food movement here in the United States and abroad. If not solely responsible, it was surely on the ground floor of what has become a multi-million dollar industry.
As a kid, I grew up in a standard American household—meat and potatoes, cold cereal and milk, etc. But I was at least in a home where everything was homemade and most of the time—fresh. And on PBS there was this lovely woman called Kathy who showed you how to make homemade yogurt and steamed greens. I was fascinated by her. It took 30 years for me to find a path that mirrored her same equanimity and poise when it came to food. And it I didn’t take to it easily.
Once I began studying Kundalini Yoga it took me a while to take on the entire lifestyle—and I still struggle with parts of it—namely Sadhana! But once I became a Level One Instructor, it took me about 9 months to become a full-fledged vegetarian. Since then I’ve struggled with my eating issues—compulsively eating foods that don’t really make me feel good and certainly don’t nourish me. I’ve gained weight since becoming a vegetarian, which of course, is discouraging. As I began addressing my food issues, I felt like I needed more protein so I introduced eggs into my diet; but that felt like I was compromising my identity as a Teacher, even if only a little bit, and when I hear that little in my mind I am reminded: “don’t let yourself down, don’t be a part of anyone’s let down,” and I experienced my own duality.
Over the past few months, in conjunction with the beginning of the Aquarian Age, several of my fellow teachers who’ve been on this path for many years have begun eating meat again. Their reasons are as diverse as they are: They don’t feel grounded; they feel they need more nutritional supplementation; or they just want to. But most of them feel the same level of duplicity that I experience when I eat eggs. One solution is to figure out how to talk about our own experience and still hold the identity of a Teacher as outlined by Yogi Bhajan without compromising our students’ experience. Another solution is to renew our commitment to the 3HO vegetarian lifestyle. I’m not a fanatic and the code of excellence describes a lifestyle that is both broad and deep. What we put in our mouths is not the beginning or the end of what a Teacher’s identity. Nevertheless, it’s a concrete way of understanding and experiencing what it means to be a yogi.
I have decided to renew my commitment to conscious eating; eating foods that will make me feel not only good but Great! My new goal is to have 90% of my diet be made up of vegetables, beans and legumes, and fruits. Lots of raw and lots of steamed green things; include starchy veggies and whole grains a few times a week; at least one cup of beans or lentils a day; three or four fruits and a handful of nuts as well as a teaspoon of flax seeds to get my “good” fats. This is the diet advocated by Dr. Fuhrman in his Eat to Live book, which I highly recommend for anyone who wants to renew their commitment to a vegetarian diet. (I also recommend Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer if you need a reminder of what the industrial food paradigm does to animals—even in the organic market.)
Meat is tamasic; and as Kundalini Yogis we are striving for a balance of Rajasic and Sattvic energies in our foods. It has been proven over and over again (see Eat to Live for citations) that meat is the number one dietary contributor to cancer and heart disease, not just here in the United States but around the world. If you feel like meat grounds you, then Yogi Bhajan’s answer was martial arts. If the pressures of the Aquarian Age are challenging your connection to the earth, try gatka; try karate; try kick boxing! Become kick ass—with a kick ass diet! If you feel you need more protein, eat more greens—they have the highest protein to calorie ratio of any other foods. I’ll never forget being in a workshop with Dharma Mittra, a world-renowned Hatha Yogi and Teacher. He had us raise our hands if we were vegetarian. Out of a room of a 100 people, a handful of us raised our hands. He almost left the room he was so incensed. He had us hold out our arms and asked us, “Look at this arm, it is made of chicken! Do you think you can reach the state of meditation and consciousness you seek when you are made of chicken?”
That moment has always stayed with me. I do want a consciousness that is sattvic and pure—and rajasic when it needs to be. I do want a meditative mind, a healthy body, and light-filled spirit. And with only a small amount of time on this new regimen I already feel the difference. I feel happy, healthy and holy and that’s what our lifestyle is all about, isn’t it?
This post originally appeared in 3HOs Blog, February 2012.
Diary of a Compulsive Eater
You can’t necessarily pick out a compulsive eater on the street. Food “issues” come in many forms and many shapes. Some can’t stand the sensation of being full; others have to feel stuffed, to the point of pain, before they feel satiated. Most compulsive eaters eat simply because they want to feel differently, which doesn’t mean we know how we feel in the first place, only that we want to not feel anything at all—comfortably numb. And even if you’re not a compulsive eater, most people on any given day don’t eat just because they’re hungry. There is often a mix of exhaustion, fatigue, loneliness, stress or anxiety thrown into the recipe of eating behaviors. And the choices we make in those moments aren’t always for our highest good. How do we change the pattern?
Compulsive behavior is a by-product of duality. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s first look at the terms themselves. Merriam-Webster defines compulsive as “having the power to compel, to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly.” It’s generally associated with obsession or obsessive thinking. In the yogic model, this can be identified as a samskara, a karmic imprint, which drives you toward certain behavior. In the model described by Yogi Bhajan, it relates directly to the Hidden Self, a sub-conscious persona which takes over the rational personality and drives thought and behavior patterns.
Duality is a way of thinking that puts everything into black and white, left and right, good and bad. When we’re in duality, we experience doubt; because we’re always questioning, searching, looking for something else. We are not in alignment with what is—right here and now. Ultimately, duality puts God outside our selves and the results are typically disastrous: shame and blame, distorted expectations, and a nasty case of “self-will run riot.” In many ways, duality is actually the result of self-will.
When we live in our identity—Infinity—then we live in the flow of life, as it is, right here, right now. When we live in that flow, we are in what Yogi Bhajan often called “unisoness.” We are not separated; we don’t experience the anxiety and stress of duality. We’re relaxed; we’re in sahaj. When we live in self-will, we are constantly trying to make something happen, namely what we want! And it’s exhausting! That exhaustion leads to compulsive behaviors. Driven by a blind will to grasp at the things we believe we need, we are unable to relax and let go.
If you think about all the organs that respond to and deal with stress—they are bound up with the digestive system. Our adrenal glands, our diaphragm and our solar plexus, all contribute to the fight or flight mechanism in thesympathetic nervous system—our gut reaction. The stomach and the pancreas and the gall bladder are right there, too. So our fears and our anxieties get tied into this response mechanism—that gut reaction. The problem is, the foods we eat and the habits we have established over the years have created a looped, automatic response. We’re not really fighting for our lives, but we feel like we are; or we don’t know what we feel at all. And here we return to our initial point—how do we change the pattern?
When I’m eating compulsively, I am not in the present moment. I’m not here in my body. I’m in my head. My thoughts are spinning and I simply want something to make me feel differently. I am in duality. I don’t like what’s happening now—and I may not even understand or comprehend the source of my discomfort—I simply want out. This is the key. If we can stop and recognize this moment for what it is—a profound disconnect from ourselves, our own bodies, and our own God within—then we can find the true remedy. We can take a breath and reconnect. It is this pause that allows us to make the shift, to change the pattern.
The literature of recovery says, “pause when agitated or in doubt”; the literature of the Guru says “rahao”. Stop and reflect. Wait a moment. Relax. Reconnect. Live in sahaj. Know that the Guru is the Doer.
There are so many aspects of our lives changing and growing in dynamic patterns at any given moment. It’s easy to focus on the things that aren’t working; it’s easy to be hard on ourselves. Instead, turn your attention. Pause. Give it to the Guru and experience victory—thir gar baiso—in all your affairs.
One bite at a time, one breath at a time, it will change. And all I have to do is surrender to the moment.
Note: You can meditate with Thir Gar Baiso on my latest album, Queen Be: The Goddess Within, available through CD Baby at www.truebeingbeingtrue.com
This article originally appeared on Spirit Voyage's Blog in January of 2012.
Happiness and . . .
I have this feeling in my chest lately that I can't quite identify. It's an odd sort of expanded sensation, even while it feels emptier, lighter. It feels scrubbed is the only sensation I can relate it to. My friend laughed and me and said, "Could it be happiness?" Well, you'd think I could recognize happiness, wouldn't you?
But evidently it's a new brand of happiness--like the New Coke. I'm just hoping it lasts longer. Because in reality, the New Coke really did taste better. People were just so used to the Old Coke. They couldn't let go. I've let go of so many things over the years. But the kinds of changes I'm seeing in my life now have very little to do with anything I've done or am doing. Yes, I'm working on a new food regimen; and yes I'm meditating more. But still, these changes seem to be happening to me--not from me. Things that have troubled me for years are being removed. Old pains, tough gnarly scars, patterns of behavior that seemed impenetrable--simply lifted away. Removed.
And as great as it feels, there is a vulnerability that comes with this new openness, this new flavor, this new brand of me, which is scary. Any time I mention my insecurities or fears to my new beloved, he simply replies, "I'm not skeered!" In part to be funny and in part because it's true; he is the fearless king after all (His name is Abhai Raj). But is this simply the play of polarity? Does happiness naturally come with sadness? Does love of life naturally come with fear of death? I believe so; and it's our job to see beyond the polarity and come to a place of neutrality. Be in the moment. Dwell within our sensory self--and enjoy life's play.
After all, the relationship itself is a play of that same polarity--Sita and Ram, sun and moon, lover and beloved. The trick is to not get caught in the polarity and begin playing sides. Instead, transcend, merge, and dwell in the longing for the other. This is where the bliss lies. The ache and the ecstasy together, that quixotic nectar that is love.
So here I am. So happy sometimes that I don't know what to do with it all; and the other side is there too. All the insecurity, all the doubt, all the reservations, all the old stories, all the attachments to the way things have always been. It's Old Coke all over again.
But I don't even drink Coke anymore, so maybe that's the beginning of something entirely new . . .